"Our government takes inspiration from Athens and draws on the model of the Roman Republic, but we also inherit the Enlightenment ideal of freedom for all, even if our history has never quite lived up to it. My view—inspired by a long line of American thinkers going back to Thomas Jefferson—is that in a democratic republic the liberal arts should not be the exclusive privilege of the few. We should all have access to an education in thinking and judging for ourselves. The main goals of elementary and secondary education should center on cultivating the liberal arts, and citizens should have the opportunity to study the liberal arts in college without incurring onerous debt."
Students need an unvarnished picture of our past and the skills to understand and interpret that picture.
Navigating the tension between patriotic inspiration and historical thinking, between respectful veneration and critical engagement, is an especially difficult task, made even more complicated by a marked shift in the very composition of “we the people.” This fall, whites will constitute a minority of public-school students in the United States. “Our” past is now more diverse than we once thought, whether we like it or not.
The humanities aren’t obscure, arcane or irrelevant. They awaken our souls, influence how we think about inequality, and help us adapt to a changing world.
"Our world is enriched when coders and marketers dazzle us with smartphones and tablets, but, by themselves, they are just slabs. It is the music, essays, entertainment and provocations that they access, spawned by the humanities, that animate them — and us."
Epiphanies are hard to measure, but the humanities regularly inspire them.
The most substantial contribution of the humanities to public life does not come through empowering elite students and faculty members to reach out to their communities, but by extending the most fundamental element of a real humanities education—the power to doubt and then to reimagine—to as many people as possible. Material power, economic power, political power, all forms of human agency, are finally dependent on the power of imagination, which is why Shelley called poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." We cannot be a democracy if this power is allowed to become a luxury commodity.
Why study the humanities? Interpretation, judgment, and discernment will always be in demand, and they are cultivated and refined in the humanities. We learn, for example, how civilizations have varied across space and time. We come to understand that the world has been different and could and will be different again. Literature and the arts enable us to see through a new lens, to look at the world through others’ eyes. Students in the humanities learn how to think critically and communicate their ideas clearly, and those transferrable skills lead to rewarding lives and careers in every field of endeavor.
“You shouldn’t enter college worried about what you will do when you exit,” David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, said at a World Economic Forum panel discussion last week on the state of the humanities.
This Is Irrefutable Evidence Of The Value Of A Humanities Education
Here are 10 highly successful people, from TV hosts to presidential candidates to Wall Street CEOs, who prove that humanities majors are anything but useless -- and that money isn't a very good judge of a college major.
Yes, students need to understand what skills are marketable. But they also need to study subjects that keep them engaged enough to graduate.
The cliche about majoring in humanities is that it's a lovely way to spend four years of college and poor way to land a lucrative job. To some extent, that cliche may be true. On the whole, humanities grads earn less than students who study disciplines like business or engineering. So sayeth the statistics.
But the Association of American Colleges and Universities would like you to know that getting a degree in English or History, while perhaps not the most financially rewarding choice, doesn't require an oath of poverty either. Over a lifetime, they note, typical humanities and social science majors earn similarly to graduates who study practical, pre-professional fields such as education or nursing.
Great charts and additional info in the article....
Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows.
By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates. But that’s just one part of the paper’s overall argument that concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree “are unfounded and should be put to rest.”
“That’s a myth out there – that somehow if you major in humanities, you’re doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life. This suggests otherwise,” said Debra Humphreys, a co-author of the report and vice president for policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “That sort of journey to professional success is more of a marathon than a sprint.”
The report, “How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment,” includes U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011 and is a joint project of AAC&U and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. Humphreys and her co-author, Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at NCHEMS, looked at long-term career path and salary data as an answer to the many short-term studies on recent graduates that have fueled the assertion that liberal arts graduates are disproportionately un- or underemployed.
For those with humanistic and artistic life interests, our economic system has almost nothing to offer.
“Crisis” and “decline” are the words of the day in discussions of the humanities. A primary stimulus for the concern is a startling factoid: only 8 percent of undergraduates major in humanities. But this figure is misleading. It does not include majors in closely related fields such as history, journalism and some of the social sciences. Nor does it take account of the many required and elective humanities courses students take outside their majors. Most important, the 8 percent includes only those with a serious academic interest in literature, music and art, not those devoted to producing the artistic works that humanists study.
Once we recognize that deeply caring about the humanities (including the arts) does not require majoring in philosophy, English or foreign languages, it’s not at all obvious that there is a crisis of interest in the humanities, at least in our universities.
Is the crisis rather one of harsh economic reality? Humanities majors on average start earning $31,000 per year and move to an average of $50,000 in their middle years. (The figures for writers and performing artists are much lower.) By contrast, business majors start with salaries 26 percent higher than humanities majors and move to salaries 51 percent higher.
In January, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the National Center for Higher Education (NCHEMS) published “How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment.” Drawing upon U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011, the report provides evidence to refute several common misconceptions about the long-term financial effects on students who elect to major in the liberal arts (defined as humanities, arts and social sciences). Among their ...
...we believe the education we provide our students is far more than just career prep for their first job. We challenge our students to develop life-long skills such as analytical thinking, clarity in written and spoken expression, collaboration, and creativity. These skills can all be developed through the arts and are valuable in any career.
Just as importantly, we believe that our mission is to help students prepare for a rich, meaningful and engaged life that goes well beyond job titles and salary levels. Exposure to and understanding of the arts is key to developing qualities of responsible citizenship.
Why professors, librarians, and politicians are shunning liberal arts in the name of STEM
In truth, the existence of the crisis is so solidly established that complaining about the hand-wringing over the crisis has itself become a cliché.
In other words, the humanities crisis is largely a positive feedback loop created by stressing out over economic outcomes.
There is little sense in denying that there is a crisis afoot in the humanities. But it’s myopic to focus on the crisis without acknowledging what the humanities really have to offer. In the absence of concrete understanding, we are left to spin about in anxious epicycles, fretting that our children’s art history and philosophy degrees will ultimately be worth no more than $4.85—the approximate cost of one page of fine bond paper. This kind of worry-worn discourse serves to reify and strengthen the downward trends in humanities enrollment. It not only makes the crisis worse; in some sense, it is the crisis. But it is painfully short-sighted to decide the value of art or literature or history solely in terms of today’s economic needs.
Liberal arts and the humanities aren't just for the elite.
Outstanding article...go read the full thing but here are two paragraphs that pack one HELL of a punch!
Traditionally, the liberal arts have been the privilege of an upper class. There are three big reasons for this. First, it befits the leisure time of an upper class to explore the higher goods of human life: to play Beethoven, to study botany, to read Aristotle, to go on an imagination-expanding tour of Italy. Second, because their birthright is to occupy leadership positions in politics and the marketplace, members of the aristocratic class require the skills to think for themselves. Whereas those in the lower classes are assessed exclusively on how well they meet various prescribed outcomes, those in the upper class must know how to evaluate outcomes and consider them against a horizon of values. Finally (and this reason generally goes unspoken), the goods of the liberal arts get coded as markers of privilege and prestige, so that the upper class can demarcate themselves clearly from those who must work in order to make their leisure and wealth possible.
We don’t intellectually embrace a society where the privileged few get to enjoy the advantages of leisure and wealth while the masses toil on their behalf. Yet that’s what a sell-out of the liberal arts entails. For the most part, the wealthy in this country continue to pay increasingly exorbitant tuition to private prep schools, good liberal arts colleges, and elite universities, where their children get strong opportunities to develop their minds, dress themselves in cultural capital, and learn the skills necessary to become influential members of society. Meanwhile, the elite speak of an education’s value for the less privileged in terms of preparation for the global economy. Worse yet, they often support learning systems designed to produce “good employees”—i.e., compliant laborers. Then, money for public education is slashed, and tuition soars. Those in the middle class, let alone the poor, have to fight an ever-steepening uphill battle to spend their time and money on the arts appropriate to free people.
The question is how its value is recognized by students and communicated to employers.
There is a growing consensus among students, parents and employers that today’s young liberal arts graduates lack the skills needed to succeed in the post-Recession job market. Stories about this skills gap abound, such as the recent New York Times essay “Opening an Employment Door to the Young”.
This belief is growing stronger despite studies by higher education leaders arguing that a liberal arts degree is still a good investment today. Smart people may disagree on the value of a liberal arts degree, but no matter which side you are on, things must change. Schools can’t continue to deliver an expensive credential that is not seen as delivering a viable path to a career—no matter what the long-term value. Here are four things higher education leaders and students must do differently to make liberal arts education economically sustainable—for all.
1. Stop the hand wringing about the real value of a liberal arts education.
Higher education leaders are frustrated by what they see as unfair treatment in the media, and overreaction by parents to the declining value of the liberal arts degree. But any strategy to counter the public’s negative perceptions with long-term data and rational arguments is doomed to fail.
One college junior last week confessed to me she had changed her major from microbiology to English, even though she sees her new major as “dangerous” in terms of future employment. Parents, students and the press have all heard too many first hand stories about the challenges of today’s job market. Trying to convince them otherwise only sounds like whining. Stop it now! It’s not the value of liberal arts that needs to be debated. It’s how skills acquired with the degree are recognized by students and communicated to employers.
2. Use the entire school community to create an employable graduate.
With tuition discount rates climbing, as more colleges and universities struggle to attract good students, the current revenue model is unsustainable for all but the most elite and well-endowed colleges and universities. To prosper in the new competitive environment, institutions must engage the whole school system in supporting the personal and career development of their students.
I recently worked with a leading research university to align the efforts of its huge, decentralized staff to transform the career support infrastructure. This type of collaboration to improve support for liberal arts students means aligning the activities of administrators, faculty, academic and career advisors, as well as alumni, parents, fund raising staff, and students themselves. This is no easy task. But savvy higher education leaders recognize that increasing the employability of their grads requires major culture change that involves the whole system.
3. Attack the job search “skills gap” head on.
A major reason so many liberal arts students struggle after graduation is they have no clue about the real skills needed to pursue and land a job in today’s hyper-competitive job market. A lot of schools need to reinvent their traditional career services function so it provides leading edge tools and tutoring to prepare students for the “real world.”
Updated networking techniques, ready access to helpful alumni, education about technologies like applicant tracking systems, and intensive coaching for Skype and in-person interviews must become standard offerings to make liberal arts students more competitive.
4. Increase student engagement with personal and career development activities.
When it comes to improving the employment prospects of college students, the elephant in the room is the difficulty of convincing young adults to fully engage with the activities needed to effectively launch their career. In the research for my book Graduate to a Great Job, more than 50% of “successful” grads I studied didn’t know what they wanted to do when they graduated.
Even students who express angst about future employment seem unwilling to invest sufficient time to master the skills needed for success, such as extensive networking, in-depth industry research, resume writing and interviewing. My research indicates this is partly due to other demands of student life, as well as an emotional resistance to “growing up.” But another factor is not understanding how much they have to learn, and how little students—and their parents—know about what it takes to land a great job today.
Motivating students to engage early and often in the career development process may be the greatest challenge facing higher education leaders today. This will be particularly problematic for large public universities with more limited resources. Private schools, like Wake Forest and Reed College, with reputations for proactively addressing career development with their students, are committed to starting this conversation freshman year.
To increase the real and perceived value of the liberal arts degree, schools must stop debating this issue and start investing in infrastructure and culture changes that align the entire school behind efforts to prepare graduates for the future. This can be done without compromising the ideals that make a liberal arts education worth fighting for.
American policy makers and educators have put too much of a focus on technical fields and not enough on teaching critical thinking, David M. Rubenstein said during a panel discussion on Thursday.
DAVOS, Switzerland – David M. Rubenstein, the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, believes American students have lost a valuable skill that can help them succeed in business and life: critical thinking.
Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum, Mr. Rubenstein, the co-chairman of the private equity firm, said American policy makers and educators have put too much of a focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the expense of the study of literature, philosophy and other areas in the humanities.
Mr. Rubenstein’s comments offered a sharp contrast to a recurring theme in Davos this year: that more technical-based training could help solve a crisis in youth unemployment since the financial crisis.
Humanities teach problem-solving skills that enable students to stand out among their peers and to achieve success in the business world, Mr. Rubenstein said. Career-specific skills can be learned later, he said, noting that many of Wall Street’s top executives studied the humanities.
“You shouldn’t enter college worried about what you will do when you exit,” said Mr. Rubenstein, who majored in political science.
Students increasingly face pressure to enter fields that are perceived as higher paying — many times because of the skyrocketing costs of higher education, said Mr. Rubenstein, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
But the reasoning skills that come with a well-rounded humanities education actually result in higher-paying jobs over time, Mr. Rubenstein said.
He’s even come up for an abbreviation to counter S.T.E.M., the often-cited acronym used by advocates of more career-focused disciplines.
“H=MC. Humanities equals more cash,” Mr. Rubenstein said.
To grow investment for the humanities, we must start with a clear sense of narrative backed up by solid data, says Earl Lewis
Three quarters of a century ago, Virginia Woolf posed the question: if you had just three guineas to share, what would you support?
In each age we face ostensibly insurmountable challenges that require choices to be made, resources to be allocated and areas to be ignored. This is particularly the case in the US, which has seen an explosion in the number of registered philanthropic organisations, as well as a rethinking of what it means to be philanthropic. According to the Foundation Center, 81,777 foundations and charitable entities dot the US social landscape.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences argued in a recent reportthat we live in a world characterised by change, and therefore a world dependent on the humanities and social sciences. "How," asked the academy, "do we understand and manage change if we have no notion of the past? How do we understand ourselves if we have no notion of a society, culture or world different from the one in which we live?"
When thinking about how to insert the humanities into a dialogue about a nation and its future we must start with a narrative – what story do we seek to tell?
Take, for instance, the story of demand for greater attention to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). For those of us born in the 60s or earlier, a generation might be thought to last 25 years. In the new digital age, generations are defined in terms of 18 months. A typical undergraduate might experience two or three technological generations during university. That sense of acceleration became part of the narrative that pushed STEM into the national consciousness.
And if we look at the number of US students graduating in the humanities, two storylines emerge. First, the number peaked in the early 1970s, hit an all-time low in the 90s, and has been on a steady rebound ever since. Second, as a percentage of overall graduates, the humanities have always been between 8% and 12% – a significant number.
Why young people choose to study the humanities is a complicated question. We have to consider that the humanities continue to demonstrate the vibrant and dynamic tension between continuity and change. Longstanding disciplines such as literature, history and philosophy remain important to scholarship and discovery. And for nearly a quarter of a century we have also been embracing interdisciplinary scholarship – many of us took part in the creation of gender studies, women's studies, sexuality studies and African American and ethnic studies, among others.
These examples remind us of the invention and creativity that have exploded in recent decades. New questions, new approaches, new answers and new ways of knowing are the legacy of interdisciplinary work in the humanities.
Attendance at museums and historic sites suggests the broader public takes an interest in what we produce. Last year, thousands of people lined the pathways around the National Archives building in Washington DC to view a copy of the emancipation proclamation – Abraham Lincoln's edict that freed enslaved African Americans in states at war with the US government. They did so, presumably, because the document carries with it contemporary meaning.
The fact that anyone showed up for its public viewing is to be celebrated; the fact thousands did reminds us that the humanities give us a fuller understanding of our world – past, present and future. Forms of representation and expression as old as rock art and ancient lyric, as well as newer graphic novels and digital music, have helped deepen our understanding of the human condition and foster more durable institutions and societies.
The use of one's precious guineas in support of the humanities must start with a clear sense of its narrative, backed up by data. Investment then follows because the case for support is clear. That is why it is in everyone's interests to support the humanities and the public good – doing so advances our shared future.
Earl Lewis is president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a philanthropic organisation supporting the arts and humanities
He presents a keynote on 27 January at the University of Oxford in theHumanities and the Public Good series
Women started deserting subjects like history and English decades ago.
Multiple articles over the last few months have proclaimed that “humanities fall from favor,” “interest fades in the humanities,” or that the humanities are “under strain around the globe.”
Commentators tend to attribute the decline to two major developments: significant funding cuts to history, literature, and arts programs at public universities and political criticism of the humanities. Republican governors have proposed cuts to humanities departments at state universities to rebalance funding towards more obviously “practical” subjects. North Carolina’s governor Patrick
McCrory stated in January 2013 that he planned to change the state’s legislation on higher education funding so that “it’s not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs.” Like other critics, McCrory did not want taxpayers to subsidize subjects that did not seem to lead directly to students securing a job.
n the United States, the debate continues about massive budget cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities for 2014, while some state universities in Pennsylvania even plan to close music and language departments. The problem extends beyond American borders. Since 2009, funding for arts and humanities has decreased around the world.
These are serious developments and they demand a serious response. But the apparent crisis is not what it seems. As someone who spends much of her time speaking to students about their choice of majors, I believe that many people have actually been talking past the issue.
The histrionics have masked a deeper story—a story of women’s choices in higher education......